Total Recall Review

Joyce Alexander@BlitzWeekly

I am a fan of science fiction movies but I tend to be skeptical of remakes.  I really wanted to like the movie, Total Recall.  It is based on a 1990 Paul Verhoeven film of the same name, which starred Arnold Schwarzenegger and is loosely based on a Phillip P. Dick short story.    Unfortunately, this Len Wiseman version of the film feels like little more than a long video game advertisement.

I was disappointed in this movie.  The film takes place in the not so distant future of 2084 where there has been a Third World War that has left the planet with only two habitable areas, each on opposite sides of the world.   For some inexplicable reason, the United Federation of Britain (UFB) depends on the people in the “Colony” to run its factories.  The moviemakers never explain the reason for this dependent relationship. The main way to travel between the two areas of the planet is a gravity elevator called “The Fall”.  Every day people use this device to travel back and forth to work in the two regions.

The main character, Douglas Quaid is played by Colin Farrell.  He works in a factory that produces sophisticated robots that have the ability to engage in hand-to-hand combat. The factories are located in the industrialized (and supposedly wealthy) UFB and the workers live in the less affluent Colony.  Early in the film, we find out that there is a rebellion underway that is trying to secure independence for the Colony from the UFB.  Sound familiar?  You’ve probably seen this basic story a dozen times.  It is just a futuristic edition of the age-old story of about colonialism and struggles for independence.  If it weren’t for the science fiction angle, this film would be hard to sit through.

Total Recall is a confusing movie.  It leaves the film goer’s imagination stranded in a sea loose ends and clichés.  Collin Farrell is entertaining as the centerpiece action hero but there is no chemistry between him and the two female leads, Jessica Biel and Kate Beckinsale. These women are little more than karate chopping – kicking boxing Barbie dolls.  There is lots of running, chasing, shooting, and jumping with only the thinnest story line holding the whole thing together.

In the original Total Recall film, the viewer questioned whether the hero was a spy or was dreaming that he was a spy.  This ambiguity was missing from the remake.  It never succeeds in persuading the audience to question whether the hero is having a drug-induced hallucination.  It really fumbles on this key element of the plot.

Now this movie is not a complete waste of time. The overall look of the movie is compelling. Several of the action scenes are good escapist fun.  The elevator and hover car chase scenes have the feel of a good high-energy video game.  Even some of the technology displayed in the film is pretty cool.  I especially like the glowing tattoos and the hand phone.  The visual scenery is richly layered and gives the feel of being intricately detailed.  These are all good things in a science fiction movie but just not enough to save it.

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